Task & Purpose has been following the saga of John Wick for some time. The movie series about the legendary hitman, dog fan, widower and possible former Marine has been a favorite for the site. This year’s John Wick: Chapter 4 was a superb action film. It also made $432 million at the box office. Not bad for a series that almost started out as a direct-to-video release.
It was so successful that the film’s studio Lionsgate announced this week that it is moving forward with a fifth entry in the series. The confirmation came during a Lionsgate quarterly earnings call, where its motion picture group chair Joe Drake said that “[…] you can rely on a regular cadence of John Wick.”
That raises several questions, mainly starting with “how” and “why?”
Spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 4 follow.
The immediate question is how can this even happen? At the end of John Wick: Chapter 4, John died. He died after a night of fending off every assassin in Paris before sustaining substantial wounds in a pistol duel at dawn. He secured the safety of his allies, defeated his enemies at the High Table and even found a semblance of peace. There was even a funeral.
More than that, series director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves have expressed a desire to at the very least take a break from the series.
“In our minds, Keanu and I are done for the moment. We’re going to give John Wick a rest. I’m sure the studio has a plan,” Stahelski told the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “If everyone loves it and it goes kooky, then we’ll take a quiet minute.”
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They made those comments ahead of Chapter 4’s release, so they were likely being coy about Wick’s fatal ending. Stahelski himself has expressed his desire to work on some other projects — such as an adaptation of Ghost of Tsushima.
Still, if a fifth film does happen, there are options. Wick couldn’t be dead! His dog seemed a bit unsure at the funeral after all. However, that would probably cheapen the fourth installment’s ending. Another option is to follow a different character. Donnie Yen’s blind assassin Caine would be a solid bet, given his status as John’s equal if not better, essentially serving as a fresh stand-in. He was also last seen being menaced by the daughter of his dead friend, but audiences never saw him die so anything is possible.
Lionsgate has already shown its interest in building out the John Wick universe. Ballerina, a spinoff set in the same world, is due out in 2024, starring Ana de Armas. Peacock is set to air a prequel series, The Continental, this fall, following the characters of Winston and Charon in the 1970s. And in the call, Drake mentioned other projects in development. It makes sense, the films have been increasingly successful and the blend of clear, innovative action with sharp colors and strong worldbuilding have influenced other action films and even Marvel releases like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Can they work without Stahelski, Reeves or original screenwriter Derek Kolstead? That remains to be seen.
And although the series has yet to disappoint, there is also the concern about diminishing returns. At this point narratively, John Wick’s journey is pretty complete. He’s mourned, he’s been pushed, he’s been on the run and he’s found closure. Not only that, but the series has pushed its action to new ends, and brought in a who’s who of action stars. The last film featured Scott Adtkins, Hiroyuki Sanada and legendary Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen. That’s on top of past installments featuring Mark Dacascos and actors from The Raid series. Who is left for John Wick to fight?
If John Wick 5 really is in the cards, we’re not entirely opposed to it. After all, the series is great. But there are some serious questions about what could justify a new installment. Maybe it’s time to let the Baba Yaga finally rest.
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